You’ve got to love the concept of a ‘Tourist in Residence’. As Tourist in Residence to the Edinburgh Art Festival, Anthony Schrag has designed a bunch of one-off tours that are quite unlike your usual walking tours. Already he’s run a workshop on parkour/urban climbing and an ‘unsensory tour’ and later this week he’ll be hosting a free-form football match in Rose Street (there are still tickets left! Do it!).
The blurb on the Art Festival page says that his work is about “enabling his audience, encouraging and facilitating a different experience of the city that surrounds them” and the emphasis is a bit less didactic than your standard walking tour – we were told that if we as a group decided we’d rather go in a different direction from the originally planned tour, that was fine. As a big introvert, I can get a bit nervous about ‘participatory’ but it this really worked for me (and I ended up talking a lot about James Clerk Maxwell.)
The initial description said that the tour would be based on ideas of the ‘golden ratio’ and I was a wee bit wary – sometimes artists + mathematical concepts doesn’t work out so well (at least from a mathematical point of view). But I was charmed by the idea of drawing a golden-ratio spiral onto the map of Edinburgh and going where it led: focusing initially on the new town and how aristocrats returning from their Grand Tours brought back particular ideas of beauty and moving outward into other areas – is brutalist architecture beautiful? What would be the modern equivalent of how a mediaeval person would admire stained glass as an exciting visual experience?
I was a little disappointed there was no parkour/urban climbing demo on this walk but we did get to walk down a cobbled street blindfolded (I was more comfortable with this than I expected – I’d normally freak out at sensory deprivation) and climb up the Scotsman steps with mirrors under our noses pretending we were walking on the ceiling (I hope somebody got pictures).
I guess the lasting thing for me will just be noticing some things that I’d probably looked at before but never really seen – crests, gateways, combinations of old and new buildings, window-taxed windows. The sign in the pavement of the station that says ‘Stuart’s Granolithic’ (a type of concrete). The way the St James’ centre tower looms over the ‘pretty’ buildings from some angles (I’m sure my brain must just have censored this out previously).
Anthony Schrag is fabulously enthusiastic, interesting, a bit quirky and totally rule-breaky in a way that I’m really not (It says ‘Private Property’! Yay, even more reason to go down it!) If you get a chance to go on one of his remaining tours, definitely take it.
Upcoming: I’m mostly book-festivalling for Clicket for the next few days.
The poetry polaroid map was unveiled in Pulp Fiction last night. It has a bunch of fab poems in it – and I’m glad to discover I wasn’t the only one who made the mistake about the street numbering. It’ll be displayed in Pulp Fiction till Tuesday – do pop in and see it if you get a chance!